House ‘Green Dogs’ support carbon pricing
By George Kralovec
Have you heard of the Green Dogs in Congress? This is an influential but little-known caucus of 71 House Democrats, fully a third of the House Democratic delegation. Their twofold mission is to:
- Advance policies that promote clean energy innovation and domestic manufacturing, develop renewable energy resources, and create good green jobs across the economy and the country.
- Advance policies to address climate change, protect our nation’s clean air, water and natural environment, and promote environmental justice.
The Green Dogs’ official name is the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), and they were founded in 2009.
On May 27 this year, the Green Dogs released a 12-page paper with their priorities for inclusion in the Administration’s American Jobs Plan legislation. These priorities focus on “simultaneously protect[ing] communities from the ever-increasing threats of climate change while reducing pollution and injustice in historically burdened communities.”
Carbon pricing is a priority for the Green Dogs
The exciting news for CCL volunteers is that, in that 12-page paper, the Green Dogs listed a price on carbon as an essential tool for success in confronting the climate crisis. They identified this policy as a priority for the Ways and Means committee.
“We would support incorporation of an equitable and just carbon price that keeps working families whole and sends a planning signal to businesses and industries to decarbonize,” the paper reads. They specify that a carbon price “should be advanced with a suite of policies from Congress and the Administration to reduce pollution in disproportionately impacted communities, such as provisions to secure mandatory pollution reductions in environmental justice communities and policies to address cumulative impacts of pollution in these communities.”
That sounds pretty familiar — a carbon pricing approach like the recently introduced Save Our Future Act, which prices carbon and prices pollutants in frontline communities, would certainly meet the Green Dogs’ stipulations.
An influential group with skin in the game
The Green Dogs’ release came amid discussions of what a bipartisan infrastructure bill could look like, a discussion dominating the national news cycle this summer. The Green Dogs have been in the thick of those discussions, meeting extensively with key House and Senate committees, Cabinet-level officials, and top White House advisors. That process is continuing today. The Green Dogs’ paper is essentially a peek into the legislative “sausage making” behind the recent headlines that focus on the political battles surrounding infrastructure and climate policy.
This kind of influence is nothing new for the Green Dogs. The coalition has been calling for a sustainable infrastructure plan since 2018 and has played a role in many environmental victories, such as extension of clean energy tax credits, increased funding for clean energy programs at the Department of Energy, and the inclusion of water sustainability policy in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. A quick look at the coalition’s media center provides a snapshot of the scope and pace of their accomplishments.
But why are the Green Dogs so influential and effective at shaping the Democratic agenda for climate and energy? Well, unlike in the vast majority of caucuses, House members who want to join the Green Dogs are required to “put skin in the game.” The group’s members all commit to contribute funds from their own budgets to support a full-time executive director for the caucus. SEEC’s executive director ensures the members and their staff are well-informed to develop policy and finds legislative opportunities to advance the coalition’s agenda and goals. The executive director also arranges meetings for the coalition with other legislative and administration officials, such as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and others. By committing a portion of their office budgets, they show they are joining not just to “talk the talk” but to “walk the walk” to support the coalition’s mission. Nothing speaks louder than a financial commitment.
Another thing that adds to the Green Dogs’ strength is their political action committee. The SEEC PAC mission is “to support SEEC members and candidates who support clean energy, climate change solutions, and protection of our nation’s clean air, water, wildlife, and natural environment.” In the last election, over 95% of Green Dogs were re-elected, defying odds on a night when Democrats lost seats.
Green Dog leaders speak out
In summary, it’s no small thing that this powerful coalition has come out in support of carbon pricing. The inclusion of carbon pricing among the Green Dogs’ priorities no doubt reflects the presence among them of 27 cosponsors of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, more than a third of all the bill’s cosponsors.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA-11), a founding member and co-chair of the Green Dogs since the 114th Congress, says, “The gravity of the climate crisis demands bold action. That is why I am proud to support policies like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which will drastically decrease our emissions and jumpstart an equitable transition to a clean energy economy and future.”
“We can’t save the planet without making every single person an actor in this crusade; placing a price on carbon does that,” argues Rep. Scott Peters, a Green Dog from California.
Rep. Annie Kuster, a coalition member from New Hampshire, is optimistic that good climate policy can both reduce emissions and create jobs. “I don’t see it as an ‘either or,’ I see it as a ‘both and,'” she said last year as she unveiled her “Clean Energy Agenda,” a suite of proposals that includes the Energy Innovation Act.
Kuster, Peters and Connolly are among the 24 Green Dogs on one of three House committees relevant to carbon pricing legislation — Kuster and Peters on Energy and Commerce and Connolly on Foreign Affairs. (The third relevant committee is Ways and Means.) Those roles mean they are well-positioned to support equitable, just, and effective carbon pricing policies as a necessary tool to meet the climate crisis.
Support from this influential group is yet another piece of evidence of the broad appeal of a carbon price. Congress should enact one this year.
George Kralovec is a volunteer with the Fairfax County, VA, chapter of CCL. Retired from a 26-year career with the Marines followed by 20 years as a manager of government relations for aerospace defense companies, he is CCL’s liaison to the office of Gerry Connolly, (D) VA-11, and co-leads CCL’s nationwide Climate and Security Action Team.